GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Wafa Sultana
Title of Paper:
The Quest for Knowledge-based economies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Impact of Brexit
Paper Proposal Text :
Volatile oil and gas prices and shifting strategic interests have propelled the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states towards goals of a “Knowledge-based” economy. It is an economy where human intellectual capital drives innovation and production in a country’s progress. The oil boom of the early part of the twentieth century didn’t seem to motivate GCC to take up Education as a priority. Education expenditure of Saudi Arabia was less than 0.1% of the GDP, compared to 2-3% for developed countries. However, the past 2-3 decades have witnessed a steady rise in educational standards in higher education among GCC member states. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, founded in 2009 and Qatar Foundation in Doha, Qatar founded in 1995 have invested billions of dollars in starting up research institutions with an aim to create research hubs in the Middle East. In GCC’s commitment towards an economic development and diversification away from oil, it had found an upskilling partner in European Union (EU) for its cooperation in the field of education. Cooperative initiatives like the Joint Action Programme (JAP) or even the Erasmus Mundus Gulf Countries Programme between the EU and GCC aimed at promoting higher educational exchanges and scientific research at the best interests of both regional organizations. In this backdrop, relations between Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the European Union (EU) with United Kingdom (UK) as a non EU memeber post Brexit, is worth discussing.

It is interesting to note that based on a study in 2012 by UNESCO Institute of Statistics, UK was the first country of preference for four of the six GCC countries. Other EU countries are less preferable due to their mandatory requirement of study of local languages. Apart from the exchange of students between the two regions, there have been successful partnerships such as the Qatar Carbonate and Carbon Storage Research Center at Imperial College, London. The program is a 10 year, $70 million project between Qatar’s governmental agencies and UK’s premier research Institute, Imperial College. University College, London and HEC, Paris have branch campuses in Education City in Doha offering graduate programs. Such partnerships show that there is genuine interest from both sides to work together in the field of higher education and particularly between the UK and GCC.
When it comes to funds, the EU contributed about 14% of the research funding in UK universities. It remains to be seen what will happen to this funding post Brexit. In the absence of EU funding, UK Universities will look for suitable funding partners and the GCC is a good opportunity which can result in a win-win for both regions. Moreover, GCC countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE have also been active in donating to the UK Universities. Besides, recent visits of the British Prime Minister to the GCC also show UK’s efforts to strengthen UK-GCC ties post Brexit. The UK has expressed its willingness to support GCC in its efforts to diversify their economies, provide more effective governance, and adapt to the new economic challenges, by emphasizing innovation, non-oil industries, technical education and training, and services.

In addition to this, the drop in the value of UK Pound might make the UK a more attractive destination in the short-term, for some middle-class students in the GCC. UK Universities had separate fee structures for UK, EU and non-EU nationals. The demographics in UK Universities will surely be affected by Brexit but to predict the scale of change might be challenging. This paper will address on how Brexit will affect partnerships between GCC–EU and GCC-UK in the field of higher education in GCC’s quest for knowledge based economy. It will also discuss any future collaboration between the GCC member states and the UK as a non EU member post Brexit.